Notes on Barthelemy Lafon

 
…considered as possible builder of Pirate House
 
As noted in the article, “Who Built the Pirate House in Waveland,” Lafon was considered as a possible suspect in the search for someone who could fit the description of the builder of the Pirate House. I finally settled on Blanque as the man, but my notes below give some of the reasons for considering Lafon.
 
Barthelemy Lafon had been a man of high standing in early New Orleans, but did engage in piracy and ultimately lost all his real estate holdings.
 
Much of his work in engineering, city planning, and architecture lives after him. In addition, he fathered a son, Thomy Lafon, a mulatto, who acquired wealth in his own name by developing real estate. Thomy built and donated the hospital, still standing, for black women. It is located near Galvez and Esplanade, and is now the Odyssey House.
 
     From Davis’ The Lafittes
 
p. 7: Lafon mixed privateering with map-making; escaped to Havana in 1802
 
p. 32: selling ships in NO in 1803. Commerce with Havana, Charleston on copper-bottomed privateer Bellona.
 
61: owned property where Bayou Lafourche met river, area close to Donaldsonville, frequently used by Lafittes; probably knew them
 
107: Lafon’s La Misere brought in prize the Cometa in August 1813
 
199: October 1814 grand jury called for indictments of Lafon for taking two Spanish vessels
 
225: Lafon along with 15 others face indictments for piracy of for illegally fitting out a privateer in US territory
 
233: “Association” of men, including Livingston, Laffites and Lafon were bent on gaining profit through encouraging attacks on Spanish property in 1815-16
 
324: 1816 – Lafitte simply took over Galveston, organized others. In meeting with them, Lafon acted as secretary. (This hardly makes Lafon out to be the master of the pirates of Mississippi gulf coast and builder of Pirate House.) Met on board Lafon’s Carmelita.
 
326: Ducoing held sham admiralty meeting aboard Lafon’s Carmelita
 
330: 1817 – Ducoing refused to condemn Lafon’s prize the Evening Post; later, appears to condemn him and others
 
336: still 1817: Lafon owed $1200 to Espagnol, whom he asked to testify on his behalf that the government of Lafitte was legal; Lafon applied to go before Judge Hall to prove that the authorities that had OK’d taking of ships at Galveston had been legally appointed.
 
344: July 7, 1817: District court indicted Jean Lafitte, Lafon and Duparc for not paying duty on some guns; in 1826, after they were dead, court went after Lafon’s estate for unpaid sureties and nine years interest at 6%
 
348: Carmelita, captained by Lafon, returns to abandoned Galveston with Lafitte aboard. Lafitte had brought with him about 40 Baratarians.
 
 
 
 
     From 500 Years of Maps
 
p. 126: See brief bio. Lafon lost fortune after war:
           “Lafon is fascinating figure in the history of La. cartography. Trained as an engineer and architect, he emigrated from France to NO in 1790, established an iron foundry on the lower part of Canal St. shortly after his arrival. Lafon also served as the chief deputy surveyor for Orleans Parish, prepared the first NO city directories, and was an officer in the 2nd Regiment of the US Militia of the territory of Orleans.”
            It is further stated that he prepared many maps for Claiborne and as engineer during war. After losing fortune, joined Lafittes, first at Barataria and then Galveston, where he prepared unpublished map of Galveston Bay.
 
p. 132: Wilkinson ordered Lafon to build Fort Petite Coquille. [This was before War of 1812, and Fort Pike had not been built. Petite Coquille was other side of peninsula from Pike, and commanded view down Rigolets from the Lake Pontchartrain side. Lafittes already knew area well and gave advice. Latour later joined Lafon and Lafittes as Spanish secret agents, surveying and mapping the southwest frontier for Spain. [Question: did S/W frontier include Miss Gulf Coast?]
[Another curious piece of info comes out about spying for Spain in that Fra Antonio Sedella also was spy for Spain. This was the much beloved rector of the cathedral, Pere Antoine.]
 
139: Lafon’s 1806 map – #66 – is one of “earliest comprehensive maps of any state or territory in US.” [See also maps 79, 173, 82 to 85.]
 
180: Lafon served as chief engineer for American forces during Gulf campaign in War of 1812.
 
298: Lafon was influenced by classical design when he surveyed his subdivisions, naming streets in his faubourgs for Greek gods and muses [see map # 173]
 
317: Map 173, made in 1816. Shortly after, Lafon joined Lafittes at Galveston. He had lost his fortune after the war. [I do not know how, but it may have had to do with Spanish titles that could not be proved.]
 
rbg